Old Town traders are on their knees as misery goes on

Old Town Roadworks.
Old Town Roadworks.

Long suffering Old Town traders were hit by another blow as it emerged that already over-running roadworks in the High Street will not be completed by the revised end of March deadline.

The project to turn the High Street into a one-way traffic zone along with other improvements designed to entice shoppers to the area has turned from a five month job into almost a year of anguish and upheaval.

High Street road improvements - halted for Christmas, but work still to be done ENGPNL00320130912130940

High Street road improvements - halted for Christmas, but work still to be done ENGPNL00320130912130940

Herts County Council and Dacorum Borough Council both admitted, following questions from the Gazette that work will not be finished on time.

It was agreed that the project, under contractors Jackson Civil Engineering, would come to a halt in October last year after works over-ran so that struggling shopkeepers could take advantage of the Christmas trade.

Workmen returned in the new year, with a promise that the project would be completed by the end of March.

Traders have said that the drop in footfall during the works has put businesses at risk and the borough council introduced a grant scheme and free parking for shoppers in a bid to bolster businesses during the difficult time.

Dan Busson from cycle shop Leisure Wheels said: “It is just finishing off businesses and staff are losing jobs.

“It is a ghost town up here.

“The road is open now but it is like a building site, there are cones and barriers everywhere and it is not very user friendly.”

Dan found out that the roadworks will not be finished on time after emailing the borough council, but no official announcement has been made.

“It has cost us all thousands and thousands of pounds.

“Most of the businesses have been doing half of the trade that they usually do and when they shut the road again it halved again,” said Dan.

“When you have had almost a year of doing half your usual business it takes a long time to get that business back.

“It may be a very pretty High Street in the end but with businesses that have been brought to their knees.”

A spokesman for Herts County Council said this week: “Our contractors have informed us that they do not expect to complete the work by the end of March.

“We are currently in discussions with them about a revised schedule and will be doing our utmost to ensure that the delays are kept to a minimum.

“We will be keeping residents, businesses and road users informed and apologise for an inconvenience this may have caused.”

Dacorum Borough Council has also confirmed that it is in discussions to clarify the revised schedule.

Leader of the council Andrew Williams said: “As a partner in what is going to be a really positive project for the Old Town we are disappointed at these further delays and are sorry for the continued disruption for residents and businesses in the area.

“We will do what we can to support those living and working in the Old Town and work with Herts County Council and their contractors to get this project to completion as soon as possible and try and keep further disruption to a minimum.”